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If they were cold, self-dramatizing narcissists, what was I? The short answer is that for many of the years I spent re-reading The Moviegoer , I was just as confused as Binx.

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I certainly aspired to be every bit as cool and every bit as noncommittal. It turned out to be a lousy strategy for, as the life coaches say, professional and interpersonal success. I took a Binxian approach to women, which is to say I told them lie after lie even as I assiduously pursued them. I turned my lunch hour at work into two or three hours of drinking, and I thought Binx would have been proud. But maybe it validated my impulse toward the passive and disconnected.

It gave me permission to be the fuck-up I always thought I could be. My girlfriends, unimpressed with the literary influences behind my evasions and lies, dumped me. My bosses, with no use for an employee who disappeared for hours on end, fired me. Re-reading is essentially a childish act. Kids are serial re-readers. Kids want to return again and again to the world they find in a particular book, to try it on for size, to imagine themselves there, to take a few laps around their alternative world before returning home.

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Part of the fun is knowing you can make the trip anytime, as many times as you want, and always come back safe. The idea is that with each re-reading, the reader brings new experiences, new insights, new emotional depth to the book, thus transforming it.

But this credits readers with too much power and books with too little. Certain books have a way of stripping us of the emotional and intellectual armature that is commonly called maturity. One of my friends, for example, once told me that she never has been able to read Winnie the Pooh to her kids without crying. In the years since I first read The Moviegoer , I married, became a father, and learned some of the tricks we all learn for passing as an adult in an adult world.

But reading The Moviegoer annually has given me an excuse to stay in contact with my year-old self.

One of the things I looked for in The Moviegoer year after year was some clue to what happened to Binx and Kate. The novel ends ambiguously.

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Binx and Kate are supposed to marry and Binx is supposed to go to medical school. But what really happens? A stockbroker-turned-doctor named Jack makes an appearance. Some things about Jack seem awfully familiar. Jack likes to go to the movies. Like Binx, he drives a tiny red sports car.

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Except that this should have come as no surprise. I should have seen it coming all the way. That revelation changed the way I read The Moviegoer. Now when I read The Moviegoer , I mostly notice the psychic danger just beneath the surface. Have I kept reading The Moviegoer because it spoke to something in me that existed before I first read it?

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The Music Box begins its series today with a screening of a restored version of " Psycho ," still possibly Hitchcock's most famous film, and continues over the weekend with new prints of "The Birds," " Frenzy " and " Family Plot. There will be a three-week run starting Feb. There will also be matinee screenings Dec. At Facets, a weeklong run begins Dec. For years Hitchcock was the leading brand name in American movies - the only director everyone knew, and certainly the only one whose name sold his films as efficiently as his stars. Hitchcock liked to use big stars "a star saves you the having to make the first reel of a film, because the audience already knows him" and used the biggest: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman , James Stewart , Grace Kelly , Kim Novak , Laurence Olivier , Joan Fontaine.

But the moviegoing public talked of "the new Hitchcock picture" in a way they did not talk about the new John Ford , Howard Hawks or Cecil B. They thought they knew what to expect. In a sense, they were right. In another sense, they were always wrong, because Hitchcock's plots ran diabolical double-crosses on the audience, and often on the characters themselves.

Has there ever been a mutual deception more cruel than the one in " Vertigo "? Often in a Hitchcock film, you find a character doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Consider " Notorious " , one of my own favorites, where Cary Grant is an American intelligence expert who convinces Ingrid Bergman, the patriotic American whose father was a Nazi spy, to infiltrate a secret Nazi group in Brazil. Grant knows she can win the trust of its leader Claude Rains , because Rains once loved her. And Grant knows she will do it for him, because Bergman now loves Grant.


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Devious already, but look what happens when Grant's jealousy leads him to suspect that Bergman is a promiscuous lush, when actually. Even more tortured is the relationship in " Vertigo " , where James Stewart plays a detective hired to shadow a beautiful woman Kim Novak. He falls in love with her, but it is an unhealthy obsession. When he finds another woman who looks just like her, he courts her - but he is really trying to seduce a ghost.